Today, Autism Empowerment is delighted to share a very special true story of inspiration and heroism. It is about Alec, a young Boy Scout on the autism spectrum who saved a fellow Cub Scout's life with his quick thinking, dedication, persistance and perseverance. This young man and his scouting leader are true heroes and we're excited to announce they have agreed to be on Autism and Scouting Radio in the near future. We will be sure to post here and on our Facebook pages when that date will be.
Larry Getman and Alec receiving their Boy Scouts Heroism Award on Saturday, December 8th, 2012
On Saturday, September 15th, 2012, Troop 329 (out of Battle Creek, MI) with Cub Scout Pack 304 were on an outing just like they had been so many times before. This weekend the Troop was at the North Point Conservation Area which is a 17 mile stretch of sand-dune beach area on Lake Michigan. This area was no stranger to Boy Scouts since North Point Conservation Area is often referred to as the “Old Boy Scout Camp,” because the property has been utilized and maintained by Boy Scouts in Southwest Michigan for generations.
There were 15 boys (10 adult leaders as well) having a great time not knowing that potential tragedy was about to strike. Some of the boys were playing on the dunes, sometimes sliding down on sleds while others were just playing in the sand.
Donovan, a 9 year old Webelos II Cub Scout from Pack 304 was having a great time being a boy and then suddenly without warning the dune collapsed around him and buried him alive.
Alec who is a new Boy Scout in Troop 329 and who currently has a rank of “Scout” was the first to notice that something was wrong. The area they were playing in had suddenly changed and he noticed that Donovan was missing. Alec quickly ran over to where Donovan was and started yelling to other scouts and leaders to come and help find Donovan.
At first the other scouts and leaders thought that Alec was just upset that other scouts would not come and play with him and dig holes in the sand.
His Mom says that the other boys and leaders know that Alec is on the autism spectrum and that sometimes Alec does not how to communicate to others. The Scoutmaster Larry Getman was on the top of one of the dunes, knew Alec pretty well and could tell by the way his tone changed from other times, that this time was different and that something was wrong.
Larry within seconds jumped down the 25 foot dune to where he found Alec digging. He started to ask what was going on and happening? Are you sure he was here?
Due to the way their bodies were positioned in the sand, Larry was asking questions in Alec’s face and typically this would have set Alec into a panic and full meltdown mode but Alec stood his ground and Alec quickly calculated where Donovan’s head was and insisted that Larry start to help him dig. (Larry is an outstanding Scout Leader and his own son who is also on the autism spectrum typically does not talk to the scouts in such a manner but in this case due to the shifting sand, the Scoutmaster and Scout had this quick conversation face to face).
After what Alec says seemed like forever, they reached Donovan’s head about two and half feet under the sand. But the story of Alec’s Heroism does not stop there. As they dug around Donovan’s head, the sand kept on filling back in and covering up his head.
So Alec crawled into a small hole they had and used his own body to become a human retaining wall to stop the sand from continuing to collapse on Donovan and back into the progress they were making. As Larry was holding Donovan’s head to keep it out of the sand it was up to Alec to continue the digging. To prevent the sand from falling back on him, he was only able to use one hand to do the digging.
Larry yelled out for more help and for more scouts and leaders to come help. The scouts responded without hesitation and one other leader, Tyler (one of Larry’s sons) as well as four other scouts arrived on the scene (Tony, Josh, Brendon and Zach). Tyler and Zach started to assist in the digging and then when Donovan was about two thirds out, Tony, Brendan and Josh (Josh is Larry’s other son and is on the autism spectrum as well) were able to locate his feet and pull him out.
When they brought Donovan out of the sand, he could not open his eyes and his nose and ears were packed with sand. Lisa, who is Alec’s mom and was on the outing reached the rescue team and quickly ran down to Lake Michigan, took a sweatshirt and drenched it and quickly ran it back to Larry who washed the sand out his nose and eyes.
It was estimated that Donovan only had about 30 seconds before things turned fatal and if it were not for the quick thinking of Alec, Larry and six amazing scouts, the story would not have had a happy ending.
Donovan celebrated his 10th birthday in October.
Autism Empowerment and Autism and Scouting (a program of Autism Empowerment) salutes all of the scouts and leaders who assisted with the rescue but an extra well done to both Alec and Josh who just happen to be on the autism spectrum as well. We know they are already on the road to greatness.
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